When Bill McLeod first became a single dad, he learned very quickly how important it was for his children, and his sanity, to organize his life in a way that caused the least amount of disruption to all of them. Although at times he felt like he was herding cats, he made it work, and so can you.
In a new book he has out, Bill writes that “your world will change whether or not you choose to change it, but you have the power to choose its direction.” He goes on to say to never forget that you, and only you, can make your life what you want it to be. Have you felt in the past as if others have controlled you? Affected you negatively or dictated the path that you were supposed to follow? Well those days are over.
“You are the captain of the ship as you set sail upon your new journey. A journey that I promise will be filled with so many positive experiences, lessons and joys that you cannot even yet imagine. Like Christopher Columbus setting out on his journey to the unknown, you, too are setting out on a journey of not just discovery, but self-discovery.”
One of the first things that he encourages people who want to be successful on this wonderful journey is to get organized, get established, and get ready. Finally, his advice to all divorced, widowed, or separated parents is what Karen Kaiser Clark once said: “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
“Your life is going to change but you, and only you have the power to change its direction,” he says. “You owe it to yourself, and your children to embrace this change with excitement and hope. Never forget that ‘To the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world.’”
The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Bill McLeod’s book, “Kickin’ Butt as a Single Parent – 99 Tips That Every Single Parent Must Have.” He was gracious enough to share it with readers of Pittsburgh Better Times.
I, like many of you, have suffered through a series of events that have thrust me into this confusing, exhausting, challenging and enlightening new world of single parenthood. It was never a life that I intended to live, but then again, I never intended to write a book, either. You see, I am not a doctor, a counselor, or a therapist. I am a full-time single dad. I believe in my future, the future of my children and the bond of a family, no matter what it may look like. So with that, please allow me to share my story of getting my butt kicked…
The story really starts off no different than many of yours. I was born and raised in a small town in a two parent household, the oldest of five children. I was surrounded by family, friends, and support my entire life. None of my friends were from divorced or separated families. None of my friends had a parent who died. For the most part, I had no experience with these circumstances, and never thought that I would.
In 1991, while at work, I met a special lady who was to eventually become my wife. Sara was a beautiful and caring woman who taught me so many things. We were married in 1992 and together, began our family. Over the next few years, we were blessed with two beautiful children, Jack and Michaela. For all intents and purposes, we were the perfect family. We had a successful business, wonderful children, financial stability, and love. In essence, we were living the American dream.
Unfortunately, life as we knew it was about to abruptly change. By late 2003, it became apparent to me that Sara was having an issue with alcohol. I have to say that this was somewhat of a surprise to me. She was not the type to go out with friends to bars until the wee hours of the morning. Oh sure, she probably on occasion had one too many drinks, but who hasn’t? My definition of a heavy drinker was someone who drank until someone had to take them home and then drank again when they got there, but not someone who quietly drank wine at home. Sara was a closet wine drinker; quietly self medicating herself from whatever it was that was bothering her. We talked about it, argued about it and cried about it. I even became a great enabler. I was foolish enough to believe that if I caught her, then she would quit. I was so naïve, but I was also so concerned about it that I actually did an intervention in the hopes of saving Sara. Finally in early 2004, Sara agreed to enter an alcohol rehabilitation center.
For the first time, Sara was separated from the family, and I was now faced with a unique set of issues and circumstances that needed to be addressed with my kids. Sure, the kids understood that mom had a problem, but how was I, as a parent, going to explain what this would mean to our family? How was I, as a parent, going to support and nurture my children during this period? How was I going to keep their lives as normal as possible? How were they going to react to the changes that were happening in our lives? What schoolwork was due tomorrow? Were there doctor appointments scheduled anytime soon? Who was going to watch the kids while I was at work? Where do I begin?
By nature, I am a very optimistic person. This comes in handy when you are dealing with issues that you are too foolish to understand. But, regardless of the challenges we were facing, I truly believed that things would get better. In reality, they were not getting better at all.
Sara’s drinking continued, even after the rehab stint, and the safety of Jack and Michaela now became my number one concern. I was always scared to death that one day I would get that call that there was a car accident and someone died. Sara meant well, after all, she loved her children with all of her heart, but, for whatever reason, she did not have the ability or desire to address her problem.
Eventually, her illness led to our separation, and finally, our divorce. I was now about to become a single parent. I decided that even though I had my own set of issues to deal with, my kids were going to be my first priority. I knew that my children were experiencing circumstances in their young lives that no child should have to face: confusion, fear, grief and anxiety. I needed help, not just for them but for myself. Unfortunately, back then, the resources available to single parents was limited.
Together, as a family we were dealing with the issues of alcoholism, separation and divorce, not to mention schoolwork, doctor’s appointments, after school activities, etc. I realized for the first time the plight that single parents actually endure each and every day. But that eternal optimist attitude continued to remind me that if you believe in yourself and your children, anything, and I mean anything is possible. Things were actually beginning to look up for us. The children were well-adjusted, sociable, involved, happy and in general, positive about their life. They spent time with mom when appropriate, and together had a loving relationship. But, unfortunately, things were about to dramatically change in our lives one more time.
In June 2007, I received a call that Sara had unexpectedly passed away in her home at the young age of 44. There is a strange finality when you receive a call like that. First, it numbs you, second, it angers you, and third, it kicks you right in the gut. As an adult, you can never really prepare yourself for death, but as a child how do you even begin to make sense of it all? I had to tell my kids that day what had just happened to their mother. I pray that none of you will ever have to go through what we did then or over the days that followed.
I also had to go and tell Sara’s 79 year-old mother, who was living in a nursing home at the time that the daughter she just adored had died. That may have been the most difficult thing I had to do that week. Throughout all of this, my only concern was for everyone else. I had the responsibility of planning a funeral, dealing with the kid’s emotions and comforting a mother who had just lost her daughter. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I found out that my mother-in-law’s insurance had run out, and that I had next to no time to find her an assisted living home before she was out of money. On top of that, I also got the call that Sara did not have a current life insurance policy in place at the time of her death. Any hope that I may have had of financial help just went out the door. Needless to say, I had my hands full. I was now responsible for two children who needed me and a mother-in-law who needed us. I was now officially, a full-time single parent. Again I called upon that optimistic attitude and prayed to God that He would help me and the kids get through this.
Fortunately, God seems to have a way of taking care of everyone in their time of need. You see, my mother-in-law was really never the same after her Sara’s death. So, in November of that same year, He took her to be with Sara in Heaven. I still to this day believe that was a blessing, although I have to say that optimistic attitude of mine was starting to get its butt kicked. Here I am, a full-time single dad with so many challenges. I have two estates to handle, two homes to clean out and sell, numerous bank accounts to deal with, creditors to satisfy, and too many attorneys and accountants than I care to think about. I also needed to go make a living since my personal financial statement was not looking so good, with the meltdown of the stock and real estate markets, and I still have not yet figured out when the next doctor appointment is. My kids needed me to be there for them. My kids needed me to learn how to communicate with them in the way that would help them deal with what had happened.
And then one day it happened. It dawned on me that maybe there was a better way. Maybe God has put what He has on my shoulders so that I can help others, and in the process help myself and my children. It was with that belief I set out to make a change in all single parents’ lives. First, with my website www.singleparentstown.com, which is for ALL single parents, not just dads, and that then expanded out to a weekly radio show, and now this book. I believe that this book is your blueprint for success. It is the book that I never had. It is a book filled with a series of tips that I know will not only change your life for the better, but the lives of your children. It is my gift to you and your children. You see, if I can help you succeed as a single parent, then your children will be the beneficiaries of your success.
For years, Bill McLeod has been inspiring parents worldwide with his message of perseverance and success. Bill is a frequent contributor to syndicated radio shows and magazines, and has been interviewed on radio programs around the country, as well as on CBS and ABC affiliates for his insight and commitment to succeeding as a single parent. For his ongoing work and dedication in these areas, Bill has won the prestigious “Embrace Life Award” presented annually to only thirteen individuals in the U.S. and Canada. His story will enlighten you, inspire you and give you hope that anyone can succeed, as long as you realize that you will never change your life until you change something you do daily. For more information, visit www.singleparentstown.com. You can also email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and find him on Facebook under Bill McLeod. .